Sun, 17 Jan 2021

Fiji coach Vern Cotter said getting on the pitch would be "an achievement in itself" as he named his side for the coronavirus-hit squad's belated Autumn Nations Cup debut against Georgia at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Covid-19 in the Fiji camp led to the cancellation of all of their pool matches -- against France, Italy and Scotland.

But they have now been given a clean bill of health for the seventh-place play-off match against Georgia.

It will be Fiji's first Test since a 29-17 defeat by Wales at the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Their most recent win was against Georgia, a 45-10 victory in their penultimate game of the global showpiece.

Fiji are renowned as one of the most exciting teams with ball in hand, captain Semi Radradra leading a talented backline, and their absence from a tournament dominated by attritional forward play and tactical kicking has been keenly felt.

But former Scotland coach Cotter insisted Fiji would benefit from their frustrating experience.

"What we have lived through is difficult and in these kind of situations people grow and become better individuals and they have time to think and reflect," Cotter told the Fiji Rugby Union website.

- 'Not easy' -

"I think we need to recognise that this hasn't been easy for the players and if they get out on the field to play this weekend, it's an achievement just in itself," added Cotter.

The coach has named three debutants in his pack -- flankers Johnny Dyer and Mesulame Kunavula, together with lock Temo Mayanavanu.

Tevita Ikanivere, Haereiti Hatet, Samuela Tawake, Chris Minimbi, Manueli Ratuniyarawa and Simione Kuruvoli could win their first caps if they come off the bench.

Fiji will be up against a Georgia side who have improved throughout the Nations Cup, as shown during a 23-10 loss to Ireland last week.

"The forwards are the first group that I'm really concerned about because we know they will be going to drive our line-outs and dominate our scrum and attack when we have the ball so we can't get the ball out to our exciting backline," said Cotter.

"We are aware of that and the first challenge is to be very attentive and work hard to become effective and then, of course, once we do that, we need to find space and we need to have Semi Radradra, Nemani Nadolo and Josua Tuisova with ball in hand and a little bit of room.

"If we can do that then our game will be the game we want."

Teams

Fiji

15 Kini Murimurivalu; 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Semi Radradra (captain), 12 Levani Botia, 11 Nemani Nadolo; 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani; 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Mesulame Kunavula, 6 Johnny Dyer; 5 Temo Mayanavanu, 4 Tevita Ratuva; 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Peni Ravai

Substitutes: 16 Tevita Ikanivere, 17 Haereiti Hetet, 18 Samuela Tawake, 19 Chris Minimbi, 20 Manueli Ratuniyarawa, 21 Simione Kuruvoli, 22 Seru Vularika, 23 Waisea Nayacalevu

Coach: Vern Cotter (NZL)

Georgia

TBA

Source: News24

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